Ignatius Book Fairs Origin Story

Posted by Igantius Book Fair on Feb 15th 2014

Ignatius Book Fairs Origin Story

The Beginnings

In 1978, Father Joseph D. Fessio, S.J., together with Carolyn Lemon, founded a small publishing house to make the works of great 20th century European theologians available in English. These luminaries included such figures as Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Louis Bouyer, and Adrienne von Speyr, and in the decades since, the Ignatius Press catalog has come to include hundreds of authors and thousands of titles. Ave Maria University came to follow in the year 2003 with Fr. Fessio as the founding provost.

President Mark Middendorf was selected as the fourth president of Ave Maria University, beginning February 1, 2022. Before taking this role, Mark left the corporate world founding a lay apostolate, Lighthouse Catholic Media. From its beginning on August 15, 2005, to its merger with the Augustine Institute on December 8, 2015, Lighthouse grew to be the largest producer of Catholic audio talks in the world, reaching over 17 million souls with its life-changing presentations on loving and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Together with its partner Ignatius Press, the Augustine Institute provides resources for evangelization and catechesis to more than 6,500 parishes and well over 1 million users.

I’ve worked for a long time in the world of evangelization, of forming people, and I have seen how effective Ignatius Press has been in forming people from the five previous partnerships I have had with them through the Augustine Institute. For example, IP and AI partnered on “Word of Life,” which was a program that offered an entire curriculum aimed at the formation of the youth in schools. Through the partnership of the Book Fair, Ave Maria University and Ignatius Press are going to bring that same formation to bear on students who will receive help in forming their intellects in the love of truth, their will in the love of God, and their hearts.” (President Middendorf)

Answering the Call

Eight years ago, I asked Father to go visit a Scholastic book fair because I was seeing books that were being promoted at some of these book fairs that had given me misgivings, and it has gotten significantly worse and so the urgency has become more prevalent at this time.

This partnership may have never happened if we did not already know each other, being friends and partners in the faith for many years prior. We both discovered that it would be a good fit for Ignatius Press to provide the literature and the funding, while Ave Maria University had the student interns who could provide all the operational support we needed to make this partnership successful.” -President Middendorf

Deciding to take on this responsibility of serving the youth through the promotion of inspiring and educational literature of both Christian and non-religious material in order to better form the minds of children and cultivate community, Ignatius Book Fairs came to life.

The start of this book fair may have taken eight years to move from word of mouth to pen and paper, but the Book Fair team is excited to respond to this call of inspiring and educating the youth.No success story is without challenges, but this team of student interns, faculty and board members are well prepared to face the hurdles that will come along the way because of their unwavering faith in this mission, seeing these challenges as opportunities to reach more souls!

With the birth of Ignatius Book Fairs, through the partnership of Ignatius Press and Ave Maria University and God’s Divine Providence, we are ready to ship out our first Advent book fairs!